We’ve officially hit the NFL’s “silly season,” that lovely time between the end of pro days and the NFL draft where draftniks speculate endlessly about this year’s class while ESPN’s Merrill Hoge
says things that are stupid
It’s something he’s pretty adept at.
We’ve already talked quite a bit about this year’s rookie Individual Defensive Player (IDP) class, both here at
. So, rather than talk some more about the likes of the “atrocious”
(really, Merrill Hoge? REALLY?), let’s instead take a different tack with this article.
Every year in IDP there are players who come from absolutely nowhere to become solid fantasy contributors. At this time a year ago, if you’d said that Miami defensive end
and Baltimore (now Detroit) safety James Ihedigbo would both post top 20 fantasy seasons in 2013, you’d have gotten the same look Hoge is getting right now in many circles.
Granted, the players on this list may be hard pressed to reach those heights in 2014. In fact, depending on how the draft plays out, these players could be left with all the value of MySpace stock.
However, if the door to a starting job that’s open right now remains cracked after the second weekend in May, this trio of second-year players could represent great value picks later in IDP drafts this summer.
Devin Taylor, DE, Detroit
The aforementioned Clowney has surely hogged his share of the headlines this spring, but as we move to summer and fall it’s very possible we’ll all start hearing more about one of Clowney’s old teammates at South Carolina.
Many IDP pundits are expecting big things from Detroit defensive end
this year, but new Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin also thinks that fourth-round pick
(who played opposite Clowney at South Carolina) could be set to take a big step forward in 2014.
Tim Twentyman of the Lions’ website
reports, Austin said, “I think Devin came back right now and is weighing a little more than he did last year, but he looks better. He’s leaner. We’re expecting some big things from him.”
Like, say, twice as many and then some.
If you take Taylor’s 14 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles and amortize that out over 750 snaps on defense (a reasonable number for a starter), you’re left with fantasy production that falls within IDP DL3 territory.
Toss in some improvement as a sophomore, and you’re left with at least an upside IDP reserve who will be available very late in most fantasy drafts.
Arthur Brown, ILB, Baltimore
On some level it’s odd to call Baltimore Ravens linebacker
a “sleeper.” After all, Brown was a second-round pick a season ago and the top rookie IDP on many fantasy draft boards in 2013.
However, sports hernia surgery early in training camp slowed Brown’s development considerably, the former Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year was never able to crack the starting lineup, and by season’s end Brown had managed only 15 tackles as a subpackage player.
left the Ravens in free agency, leaving a hole at inside linebacker in Baltimore next to
. It’s a hole that head coach John Harbaugh thinks Brown will fill in 2014, according to
Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun
“He’ll be competing for that linebacker starting job,” Harbaugh said. “I expect him to win the job, but he’s got to go win the job.”
For his part, Brown called his rookie season, “a stepping stone. I’m looking forward to making a greater impact and a greater contribution this year.”
Brown went on to say he’s been working on improving his strength at the point of attack.’
“I’ve been working on my physical strength,” Brown said, “just getting in the weight room and putting on some more functional muscle mass. All of my workouts have been performed with a purpose of that in mind.”
If Brown can win that every down job next to Smith, then the chance of a top 25 IDP campaign isn’t at all out of the question. That could make Brown a very nice value in fantasy drafts, especially if the other owners in your league sleep on Brown after last year’s disappearing act.
Duron Harmon, SS, New England
When New England Patriots drafted the Rutgers safety in the third round a year ago, it raised more than a few eyebrows, but it turns out that coach Bill Belichick and company may have known what they were doing after all.
Pressed into action late in the season by injuries in the secondary, Harmon fared pretty well as a rookie, finishing with 31 tackles and two interceptions while making three starts. Even better, Harmon finished with a positive grade from
Pro Football Focus in two of those three starts.
The Patriots jettisoned 2013 starter Steve Gregory in free agency, which would appear to give Harmon the inside track on starting next to Devin McCourty at the back end of the New England defense.
Granted, there are those who feel that may not be such a hot idea.
Mel Kiper of ESPN
wrote that, “We’ll see whether Duron Harmon can take a step forward this season, but I consider that a tenuous assumption,” and more than a few mock drafts have the Patriots taking a safety early in the draft for the third straight year.
However, if the Patriots don’t go that route and Harmon does emerge as the starter at strong safety, he could make for a fine late-round speculative pick with the potential to become an out-of-the-blue IDP DB2.
Be sure to check back here at Fantasy Sharks throughout the offseason for all your IDP needs. Whether it’s information on free agency and the 2014 NFL draft, updated dynasty and redraft player rankings or strategy tips and sleepers, Fantasy Sharks has everything you need to dominate your IDP league in 2014!
Gary Davenport is the IDP Senior Staff Writer at Fantasy Sharks and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Davenport’s IDP work has been featured in a number of national print publications and on both satellite and terrestrial radio, and he was a finalist for the FSWA Web Article of the Year in 2013.